Best answer: The third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat is still a fantastic addition to any home, with an industrial design and automated scheduling based on your heating and cooling habits. If your HVAC system is supported, however, you can get largely the same experience for nearly half the price with the newer Nest Thermostat.
Why buy a smart thermostat in the first place?
Nest has long been responsible for some of the best smart thermostats, able to automatically build schedules for regulating your home's temperature based on your heating and cooling habits. The stainless steel rotating ring around the circular display gives off a premium look and feel, and is functional to boot, serving as the main control mechanism for adjusting the temperature or changing modes.
You can also operate the Learning Thermostat from your phone using the Nest app, and even change the temperature with a voice command to your voice assistant of choice. Google says the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat works with 95% of HVAC systems, meaning the vast majority of users shouldn't run into any compatibility issues, and there's a trim plate included in the box to cover any screw holes or imperfections in your wall where you mount the thermostat.
Beyond the convenience of being able to change the temperature in your house without getting up off of the couch, the biggest benefit to using a smart thermostat is the potential savings on your energy bill. The Nest Learning Thermostat features a Home/Away Assist function that can automatically turn off your heating/cooling when you leave the house, and turn it back on once you return. It can also control your HVAC system based on the time or outside temperature; all of this results in less energy usage and a lower bill.
Many energy providers also provide rebates to incentivize smart thermostat adoption; you can check for available rebates local to you through Google's site. Another perk of options like the Nest Learning Thermostat is HVAC monitoring, which can warn you in advance of potential problems with your system.
How does the third-generation model hold up to the new Nest Thermostat?
Five years after the release of the third-generation Learning Thermostat, Google has finally a successor — though it's maybe more of a side step than a direct upgrade. Simply named the Nest Thermostat, this new iteration features a minimalistic plastic design with touch-sensitive sides, rather than a physically rotating chassis. At half the price, it's a far more affordable option, but that comes with some downsides.
The Nest Thermostat only supports 85% of HVAC systems compared to the Learning Thermostat's 95%, and as the names would suggest, only the latter builds schedules based on your behavioral patterns. With the newer Nest Thermostat, you'll need to create schedules manually. You'll also get a doubly lengthy two-year warranty with the Learning Thermostat, and the inclusion of the trim plate saves you an extra purchase later on.
You'd be forgiven for mistaking the Nest Thermostat as a direct replacement for the third-generation Learning Thermostat, but the older model is still more capable in a number of ways, and offers plenty of niceties to offset the extra cost. Even in 2020, it's absolutely still worth buying.
Still a great buy
Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen)
Wider HVAC support and more in-box inclusions
Though it's more expensive, the Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen) supports more HVAC systems, and can build schedules automatically based on your heating and cooling patterns. It's absolutely still worth picking up.
Better value, but not necessarily a better product
The Nest Thermostat makes the necessary cutbacks to bring most of its predecessor's features to a lower price point. It isn't as well-built, nor will it schedule your heating for you, but it's a nice buy for less demanding users.
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